While Dan lives paycheck to paycheck, working the door at a San Francisco dive bar and promoting unpopular poetry slams, he has been stuck in place since the day he was diagnosed with HIV. Now positive for 22 years, Dan’s problems aren’t physical—his psyche is more of an issue than his T-cells. He longs for companionship, but dreading the inevitable “Hi I’m positive” talk, he has successfully avoided the dating scene.
When the state suspends his medical coverage, and his expensive combo of multi-colored, multi-tasking AIDS drugs are cut off, the daily grind and constantly living 10 pills away from death every day gets just a little more nerve-wracking.
While PUSHING DEAD offers an insider’s view of one man’s life with AIDS, it’s also a universal story of people finding ways to love first then live with the relationship later. From the offbeat to the painfully banal, the struggles of coping with mortality are explored in a film about being strengthened by a challenge, not weakened by a disease.
ABOUT THE DIRECTOR
TOM E. BROWN
With support from the Rockefeller Foundation, I started writing the AIDS film that I was craving—a film without IV bags and skin lesions. I wanted to make a different kind of AIDS movie, a comedy—in which nobody dies.
I’ve been positive for most of my life, so many people assume this story is about me. Although it’s not autobiographical, I do have the inside scoop, and it’s hard to resist tossing in some of those personal HIV experiences. The most important experience I wanted to share was my relationship with AIDS. At some point I started thinking of this thing between AIDS and me as a marriage. It becomes a part of you, you make peace, you get hitched, and you push forward.
The healthcare system in the US has improved in recent years, but much like the lead character in PUSHING DEAD, huge numbers of low-income people across the country are still forced—at times—to pay thousands of dollars for their meds or go without. And with current threats to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the film is more topical than ever.
PUSHING DEAD is much more than an AIDS flick. It’s a picture about how we cope with the bad stuff, our need for support systems, and the hunt for a mate. When I was watching those AIDS films with characters dying, what I really wanted to see was a movie about real, funny people living and dealing with big problems—my wife left me, I have AIDS, I’m in love with a stuffed animal—so that’s what I wrote.